Thiry trial begins

The trial of a homeless man accused of causing a fire that burned 11 Ashland homes this past summer is set to begin today.

John David Thiry, 40, is facing 10 counts of recklessly endangering another and 14 counts of reckless burning for allegedly starting the Aug. 24 Oak Knoll blaze that caused more than $3 million in property damage.

Thiry has remained lodged in the Jackson County Jail on $500,000 bail since his Aug. 25 arrest after being deemed a flight risk by Circuit Court Judge Tim Barnack.

All of Thiry's charges are misdemeanor crimes, each punishable by a maximum one year in jail. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Thiry has also waived his right to a jury trial. The case will be heard by Barnack.

Thiry's trial was originally slated for October. But Barnack agreed to the delay in order to give Thiry's court-appointed attorney, Andrew Vandergaw, more time to mount a defense.

Ashland Fire Chief John Karns has said the fire was Ashland's biggest structure fire loss ever recorded. Eleven homes were lost, each valued at about $300,000 in today's market, Karns said.

The fire also prompted an evacuation of the Ashland neighborhood and shut down traffic for several hours.

Preliminary reports said the evidence did not indicate the fire was set intentionally, which would be considered arson, a felony.

Also, no injuries were reported. If someone had been injured in the fire, Thiry could have faced more felony charges, Karns said.

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